“I am not at all bad at taking care of myself,” she told him.
“I say—forgive me—I don’t believe that,” said Noel, with calm effrontery. “You would simply fall a prey to the first ogre who came along.”
Olga elevated her chin slightly. “That shows how much you know about me.”
“I know a great deal,” said Noel, with an ardent glance. “And that’s what makes me want to know much more. You know, you’re horribly tantalizing, if you will allow me to say so.”
“In what way?” She spoke coolly; there was a hint of challenge in the grey eyes she turned upon him.
He laughed without embarrassment. “I can’t quite explain. There’s something so elusively attractive—or do I mean attractively elusive?—about you. I call you ‘the will-o’-the-wisp girl’ to my own private soul.”
“I hope your own private soul is too sensible to encourage such nonsense,” said Olga severely.
He looked at her, sheer mischief dancing in his Irish eyes. “Come and see it some day and judge for yourself!” he said. “I can fix up a seance any time. It would always be at home to you. I’m sure you would get on together.”
It was hard to restrain a smile; Olga permitted herself one of strictly limited proportions.
“I will show you a glimpse presently if you would care to see it,” proceeded Noel.
“Oh, please don’t trouble!” said Olga.
“Afraid of being bored?” he asked.
She laughed. “Perhaps.”
He leaned towards her. Her laugh was reflected in his eyes, but she did not hear it in his voice as he said, “Do you mean that? Do I really bore you?”
She met his look for a moment, and her heart quickened a little. Quite suddenly she realized that this man, young though he was, possessed a wonderful power of attraction. She wondered if he himself were aware of it, and rapidly decided that he had made the discovery in his cradle. Of one thing she was certain. She did not want to fall in love with him. He drew her indeed, but it was against her will.
“Well?” he said. “Have you made up your mind yet?”
She smiled. “Oh, no, you don’t bore me,” she said.
“Thanks awfully! It’s not generally considered a family failing of the Wyndhams. Every other rascality under the sun, but not that.”
“What a fascinating family you seem to be!” said Olga.
He made a wry face. “In a sense. Did you find Max fascinating?”
He put the question carelessly; yet she suspected he had a reason for asking it. She felt the tell-tale blood rising in her face.
“You don’t like him?” said Noel.
“I don’t mind your saying so in the least,” he assured her. “He’s a queer chap—a bit of a genius in his own line; but geniuses are trying folk to live with. How did he get on with your father?”
“Oh, Dad likes him,” she said.